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Ruhr Pocket Train Battle 2017

I've been all over the place this week—working on an upcoming book talk, writing biographies for Pictures for Heroes, passing out resistance leaflets, and being accused of having vodka in my basket by a German officer. What else is new? Anyway, here are some pictures from last weekend's WWII reenactment which will give some context to the whole vodka thing. 

The Germans had control of the train for the first part of the trip, and our group stirred up some trouble! I made copies of The White Rose leaflets and recruited other reenactors to help pass them out. Although I evaded arrest, I heard that a few spectators were found with leaflets on them and didn't fare as well. 



The German officer started reading The White Rose leaflet out loud, then proceeded to handcuff the poor spectator and his wife! 


My sister portrayed a member of the BDM, the League of German Girls. *cough* TRAITOR*cough*


The leaders of our group. They're so awesome!


The White Rose resistance lives on.

-Emily (AKA. Sophie)

My Grandpa's Best Accomplishment

70 years ago today, two kids from Quebec stood before God and each other and said "I do." They stayed by each other's side no matter what life threw at them. We their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are forever thankful for their example of love and loyalty.

They had a beautiful relationship, evident by my grandpa's words."To win my beautiful bride—that's my best accomplishment. There couldn't be anything better than that, could there?" 

We miss you, Grandma. 


-Emily

Happenings

ONE

A few of my favorite things: Summer rain, my cozy hoodie, lots of coffee, and listening to veteran interviews.


TWO  


Speaking of veterans, I'm super excited to be helping out with Pictures for Heroes! It's a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring our veterans by interviewing and photographing our nation's heroes, to ensure that their bravery and sacrifice is never forgotten. Every story will be compiled into a book. Along with a team of writers, I'm transcribing and writing short biographies! Please consider supporting the project and pre-order your book!


THREE


Welp, I finally finished the Band of Brothers series. I've seen the first few episodes multiple times, but the library always wants it back before I can finish all ten episodes. (What's up with that?!) Reading A Company of Heroes and Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends made it all the more painful because I knew what was going to happen to certain paratroopers. It was SO GOOD AND I CRIED. 


#TRUTH.
FOUR


This is one gem of a book! It's chocked full of first hand accounts of French civilians during the D-Day invasion. It's a perfect research book for reenacting! I think I underlined most of the book.



FIVE

 Some new reenacting items! I'm armed and dangerous. 


What are you currently reading/writing/researching?

-Emily

RESIST | 2nd Edition

I recently released the second edition of Resist with a brand new cover! Rachel Rossano has worked her magic once again. =)

Purchase on Amazon
Add to Goodreads


Es lebe die freiheit!

-Emily

"I Have Never Forgotten Their Names."

Today, on the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, I'm thinking of my friend, Elmer DeLucia who was twenty years old when he stormed Omaha Beach. I've had the honor and privilege to talk with him on multiple occasions, and I'll forever cherish our visits. It's not everyday a D-Day veteran holds your hand and sings, You'll Never Walk Alone! There's so much I could write about him. He fought in five major battles during WWII, Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge), Rhineland and Central Europe. He was honored with the Presidential Citation for D-Day, three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, five Bronze Starts, five Major Battle Medals, a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in France, and a Good Conduct Medal. But today I'm going to focus on his D-Day experiences.



Seventy-three years later, Elmer still remembers the names of three men he trained with, men he last saw when they arrived in France before being separated into different companies—Margarito Frausto of Texas, Lucian Hughes of West Virginia and Warren Knipple of Cincinnati, Ohio.

They were split into four separate companies. Elmer was assigned to A Company in the 81st Chemical Mortar Battalion as a sight-man on 4.2 mortars. On June 6th, 1944, Elmer stormed Omaha Beach. The mortar men of the 81st provided the first direct fire support on Omaha that day with A and D being the first companies of the battalion to land.

The craft straightened out into waves and headed for Omaha Beach with all the speed and power they could muster. All the companies were in either the fourth or fifth wave of the assault ... Soon empty LCVPs passed. Seeing the empty craft relieved the strain a bit, for then it was known that the first wave had managed at least to disembark. 

Looking through the slit in the ramp one could see the smoke, wreckage, and carnage of the beach rapidly coming closer. The staccato rattling was soon recognized as machine gun bullets impacting as the craft threaded their way through the various lanes cleared by the shore engineers, but which were often lined with underwater obstacles and mines. Finally, with a last surge of power and a lurch that sent the unprepared hitting against the bulwarks, the craft grounded, and the ramps flew down spilling men, guns, and equipment on to the hell that was the shore of France. Many say now that it was a good thing most were "green" troops, for many a veteran "froze" that day. (Information taken from the 81st Chemical Mortar Battalion Unit History.)


Elmer and his friends said "goodbye" and "see you later" as they were separated. He didn't know that he'd never see them again.

"My superior officer said, 'Elmer I have some bad news. It's about those guys you trained with.' I said, 'Which one got it?' and he said, 'Elmer, they all did.' I sat down and cried. After all our time training together in the United States, they were killed. I never got over that ... I have never forgotten their names."

To all our veterans and fallen heroes of D-Day, thank you for your service. Your sacrifice is not forgotten.

6.6.44

-Emily

Night of Nights




Night of Nights
by Emily Ann Putzke

June 5th, 1944.

The day's clear and bright and the invasion’s a go, dammit. I don’t know what I thought … the invasion can’t be postponed again. Everyone’s too nerved up anyway. Let’s just get the whole thing over with and come home, that’s what everyone’s thinking. Day two of smearing my face with charcoal. Some of the fellas found some paint and streaked their faces like the Sioux. It’s like something from the Wild West. Already signed my GI life insurance at HQ. Some of the fellas joke around, you know. “Don’t want my folks back home to miss out on $10,000.” Signing that really got to us. Our days of training are kaput. The real work’s about to begin and we have a tough row of buttons to shine. Some of our folks will be getting that $10,000 before too long. That’s why we joke, I guess. If we think about it too long … well, anyway. Yesterday, as we were waiting around, some of the fellas shaved their heads and got Mohawks. (Don’t worry, Ma. I still have my hair. I didn’t feel like dishing out 15 cents.) I heard that Col. Sink came around and found the whole thing real amusing. “I forgot to tell you, some weeks ago we were officially notified that the Germans are telling French civilians that the Allied invasion forces would be led by American paratroopers, all of them convicted felons and psychopaths, easily recognized by the fact that they shave their heads or nearly so.”

Ha Ha.

I’m weighed down in gear and armed to the teeth. Hear that Jerries! We’re given American flag patches to sew onto the right sleeve of our jump jackets. We look like a million bucks. In my musette bag I got a blanket, cigs, mess kit, rain poncho, toothbrush, two candy bars, and razor. I stuffed my pockets with K-rations (aw hell), and I’m wearing my belt with ten clips of Garand ammo (80 rounds), entrenching shovel (also referred to by a more sophisticated name, army banjos), gas mask, canteen, bayonet, and first aid kit. Hand grenades hang from my suspenders, and under my shoulder is a holster carrying a .45 semi-automatic pistol. Trench knife is tucked in my boot. In my zippered pocket next to my collar is my switchblade. Compass is strapped to my ankle and on the other is a British Hawkins mine. Got my steel helmet with leather chin strap securely on. Parachute on my back, reserve chute on front. Around my neck is a Mae West life jacket, but with all the gear I’m wearing, I’d be S.O.L. if I landed in water. Some of the fellas were issued a new thing the British thought up, called a leg bag. They stuff everything they can into them—broken-down tommy guns, loads of ammo, mines, radios, medical equipment, you name it. Seems swell if it works, but I’m not volunteering for the extra weight.

At 2030 hours, we line up in groups of eighteen and march to the hangers. No one cheers, sings, talks, jokes. Nothing. The only sound is our boots shuffling against the ground as we pass the British ack-ack boys. They look at us with something like respect and pity as they solemnly nod our way. I thought I saw tears in their eyes, but I can’t be sure. Everything is quiet and somber, as if we’re marching to our graves. Perhaps we are. When we get to the hangers, we’re given two packs of paper, the order of the day from General Eisenhower and message from Col. Sink. One of the fellas reads it aloud:

Soldiers of the regiment: June 5, 1944 - D-DAY

Today, and as you read this, you are en route to that great adventure for which you have trained for over two years.

Tonight is the night of nights.

Tomorrow throughout the whole of our homeland and the Allied world the bells will ring out the tidings that you have arrived, and the invasion for liberation has begun.

The hopes and prayers of your dear ones accompany you, the confidence of your high commanders goes with you. The fears of the Germans are about to become a reality.

Let us strike hard. When the going is tough, let us go harder. Imbued with faith in the rightness of our cause, and the power of our might, let us annihilate the enemy where found.

May God be with each of you fine soldiers. By your actions let us justify His faith in us.

Colonel Robert Sink Regimental Commander, 506th P.I.R, 101st Airborne Division

Tonight is the night. There’s no going back now. We’re all quiet, lost in our own thoughts.

After we’ve been transported to the waiting planes and get harnessed up, we wait under the wings of the C-47s for H-Hour to arrive. I’m ready to give Hitler hell … just as soon as I can stand up. We’re all leaning back on our gear, dragged down the extra weight. Someone comes around with motion sickness pills. Guess they don’t want us hurling over the English Channel. I get up every few minutes to relieve myself. My throat is real dry, and my hands are sweaty. Now we start talking again, just to ease our nerves. But no one has anything reassuring to say. It all goes back to that life insurance as everyone talks about the “$10,000 jump” ahead of us. I find the rosary in my pocket and finger the beads. I close my eyes and start to feel better.

2200 hours, we’re loading the planes. They all start up at once, a deafening sound that rips through my body and rattles my head. Can’t hear myself think. I sit on the left side of the plane between Smith and Hodges. No one feels much like talking. The plane begins to move, rumbling and roaring as it takes off. I’m shoved back against the wall, feeling dizzy and sick in the gut. I can see the faces of the fellas around me in the murky light. Some are drifting to sleep on account of the pills. My heart’s racing. I didn’t think much about it before but, the trouble begins after the jump and how’ll I react under fire? Don’t know. Can only pray I’ll be a good soldier. The door’s off, and all I can hear is the wind as the plane cuts through the dark sky. All of a sudden, the Lieutenant shouts, “Look at this, boys.” I’m near the front, and I look down into the Channel as looming shadows of the invasion fleet storm toward Normandy. Battleships, gunships, destroyers. Makes me feel proud to be a part of something bigger than myself. The krauts have woken up a beast.

0100 hours. It’s June 6th and we just got the order to stand up and hook up. The plane’s going too low and fast to jump. We can see the outline of the coast up ahead, and hear the pounding of anti-aircraft fire. The dark sky’s smeared with hellish colors and sounds and I feel panic squeezing my chest. Ping, ping, ping. Flak grazes the outside of the plane. It’s spiraling into the sky and is so thick I could walk on it. I want to get out of here, and damn quick. Someone voices my thoughts. “Let’s get the hell outta here!”

The red light switches on. We have three minutes until we jump and still the plane is weaving through the air too low and too fast. But we sound off, the fella at the end of stick starting. Ten okay. Nine okay. Eight okay. Seven okay. Six okay …The light suddenly switches to green seconds later. All I hear is the roar of wind and someone shouting, “Go! Go! Go!”

We all surge forward, one after the other, disappearing into the war-torn night.


___

-Emily

Cpl. Jason Dunham - The Marine Who Jumped on a Grenade to Save Others

“The heroes are the kids who gave 100 percent; they gave their lives. The heroes are the mothers who gave up a son, who carried him for nine months, and raised him to do right, and he does right, and at eighteen, he goes to fight for his country, and he dies doing right. That's a hero.”—Edward Heffron

Cpl. Jason Dunham

In observance of Memorial Day, Jesseca Wheaton is hosting a three day blog event to honor those who died in military service, especially men and women from our respective cites/states. I chose to write about Cpl. Jason Dunham, a 22 year old Marine who jumped on a grenade to save his comrades. 

Jason Dunham was born on November 10th, 1981 (the 206th anniversary of the Marine Corps) in Scio, New York, a small town about 80 miles southeast of Buffalo. Jason's siblings looked up to him as a role model. He gave them lessons on confidence and character and was always fun to be around. One thing all his teachers remembered was his smile. His mother, Debra Dunham, learned of one of his acts of kindness after Jason died. He went out of his way to comfort a childhood friend when the other children teased her on the bus.

“All he did was sit with her on the bus,” his mother recalled. “He had a quiet way about doing the right thing.”


Cpl. Dunham graduated from high school in 2000 and entered Marine Corps Recruit Training. He was chosen to become a squad leader with Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment in September 2003. He was deployed to Iraq in early 2004 with the First Marine Expeditionary Force. His unit was based in Al-Karabilah. Cpl. Dunham loved kids, and wanted to play soccer with the Iraqi children. His comrades-in-arms formed a security perimeter around the group so that they could all play.

Cpl. Dunham with fellow Marines

He wanted to continue his college education and take the New York State Police entrance exam once he returned from Iraq, but April 14th, 2004 changed everything.

Cpl. Dunham and his men were on a reconnaissance mission near Husaybah, Iraq after receiving reports that insurgents had ambushed a marine convoy. The patrol, led by Cpl. Dunham, began inspecting the cars for weapons. When the squad approached a white Toyota Land Cruiser and discovered AK-47s, an insurgent jumped out and attacked him. Two other Marines ran over to subdue the attacker. During their struggle, the insurgent dropped a grenade. Cpl. Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines and without hesitation, threw his helmet and body over the grenade, absorbing the brunt of the explosion and saving the lives of at least two Marines. 

Cpl. Dunham was severely wounded by the grenade blast, and was evacuated.to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland where he was diagnosed with brain damage. He passed away eight days later, on April 22, 2004. Shortly beforehand, Commandant of the Marine Corps presented Dunham with the Purple Heart. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions in Iraq.


“He will be recognized and memorialized in history,” his mother said. “He is in the company of remarkable men.”



Semper Fi

-Emily